Overall, it is important to share with other collectors and challenge the art.
Welcoming Karen Levy as a distinguished guest speaker at our 2nd annual Hong Kong edition of South Island Art day, her interview session addressed several points on ‘Collecting Trends in the Art Market.’
1. Internationally recognised for its consistency and innovative models, the dslCollection has matured over several phases to now cater for Chinese Contemporary Art. Tell us a little bit more about it and how it developed.
My parents started to collect Modern Art about 20 years ago, then transitioned to design, and for the last 12 years have focused on Chinese Contemporary Art. I have therefore been involved in the arts from a very early age and greatly interested in watching my father truly committed to the collections.
We then went to China about 13 years ago to visit my uncle – my parents and I fell in love. We met galleries like ShanghArt where we were introduced to artworks and bought the first work of the collection. After seeing what was happening internationally, with a strong fascination with Asia, we felt that the art being produced was almost a mirror of society. When you look at what was happening in China, the culture at the time was really strong. It was going through tectonic changes in the context of art and we felt this dynamic. We started to collect without realising.
Upon returning to Paris, we had the chance to meet locally based Chinese artists who pointed us in the right direction on which artists to collect. It meant a lot to my parents to be given this advice; meeting artists and of course other collectors such as Budi Tek and Adrien Cheng – it comforted them in collecting.
2. When did you start playing a more active role in the collection?
We met all the artists in the collection and for me that is when I really started to be more involved. I lived in Shanghai in 2010 and the more time you spend in Asia, the more you realise how accessible it is. You meet artists, and travel to their studios, you share their passion, they introduce you to other artists – something which we didn’t feel with international artists.
3. Is there anything in particular that you would say the collection stands for? Core values perhaps?
The collection is currently bridging three main elements – humanity, science and art.
Overall, it is important to share with other collectors and challenge the art. Since the beginning we have wanted to open it to the public with a keen interest in the educational sectors because they are the future and they are the ones bringing so much to the collection.
4. How do you choose works to add to the collection? Do you follow trends or investigate based on your own personal taste?
The collector’s guide is don’t follow trends. What has always been important is to have a current collection with a direction; that is why we decided to focus on Chinese Contemporary Art. The chance we got was to be advised by artists themselves and be given the opportunity by them to be introduced to others.
Now of course, galleries are extremely important and in China there are very few public museums of good Contemporary Art. Private museums do also play a very important role but for us we think staying informed is key.
We use WeChat to know about exhibitions in Asia and look at online and offline platforms but at the end of the day it’s about buying what you like.
5. With Art Basel now in its 1st public opening day, has there been anything in particular that has stood out to you?
I’ve been at Art Basel for the last 2 days and I keep going back to be introduced to new artists and that is something of great importance to collectors – being able to ask galleries to meet the artists.
For me, I’m interested in Asian galleries because international galleries can be found at art fairs in Europe and the US but with Art Basel there is that opportunity to be introduced to new galleries from Asia. There are strong projects with the support to have such exhibitions, including trends like virtual reality.
The 3rd floor for instance has the collaborative project of work by Marina Abramovic and Anish Kapoor with the support of HTC– whom we are also working with to produce a live platform. Additionally, Long March Gallery has a VR booth. We are happy to see artists engage in this new type of art.
6.When did the dslcollectionVR museum start?
We started to show our VR museum 2 years ago. We were approached because of our big installations and the opportunities were amazing.
I was just listening to the previous discussion on corporate art collections and heard Winnie Ip address logistics, insurance and so on. Today, digitalism really helps artists, collectors and platforms to show the art and share it with a maximum audience. It is also reflected in the art as it has a total immersion.
7. How do you see consumption of the collection changing? For example, new media works are harder to display in a digital format because of the way you’re viewing it. How are people able to consume new media works through a digital platform?
Right now we’re at the beginning of VR. It was created in 1980 so it started quite a while ago, but now it’s a trend. Initially the gaming industry adopted it, then the movie industry and now art has joined the ride.
That said, the physical experience is incredibly important and it will never be replaced – purely because it was created by a human. We have more technologies that are evolving and developing faster than ever so in this 4th industrial revolution the key is to stay human.
With the collection we wanted to show it differently.
8. In the past decade, social media has changed the way we see art in general. How do you see social media change the way people are collecting?
I think it’s incredible because it brings amazing possibilities for artists, collectors, galleries and the global art community. You also see it in fashion and architecture, and in industries overall; it is an amazing marketing tool and a way to promote differently. You have so much information and are in direct contact with artists and galleries. My father, Sylvain Levy, has 30,000 contacts on LinkedIn and adds more every day.
Even my grandma is using Facebook and Instagram so it is clearly transcending across generations and is a way that we are involved in different experiences. The only thing I think that is important is to realise that we live in the real world and this can’t be replaced.
9. When displaying works, it is important to share the context of the work and not only its aesthetic value. Recently the Guggenheim had a show on Chinese Contemporary Art and received negative back lash for not contextualising the works properly. How is the dslCollection presenting works in the right context?
We have collected works which are really important to the history of China. Ai Wei Wei and his generation is really inspiring to today’s generation of artists and it is important to acknowledge how that has contributed to history.
Alexandra Munroe, curator of the exhibition, did a great job but I think it presented a challenge – a lot of people haven’t been to Asia. But this was a great starting point to emphasise the importance of China with a historical exhibition in a renowned institution. I was just reading the Art Basel report, saying that Chinese buyers are now responsible for the 10% of art buying power. Chinese artists are entering Western galleries more and more and in the end it’s all about an exchange.